Panetta calls latest NK nuclear test ‘highly provocative’

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta phoned South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-Jin to discuss the “highly provocative” nuclear test carried out by North Korea last weekend.

Panetta renewed the U.S. pledge to defend the South against aggression from Pyongyang.

“There is no question North Korea constitutes a threat to the U.S.,” Panetta said. “Make no mistake, the U.S. military is prepared to take all necessary steps” to repel attacks from the North.

Panetta said at his final press conference as the U.S. defense secretary that it was still unclear whether the underground nuclear explosion in the North was of a plutonium or uranium-based device. He also could not verify North Korean claims that the test was successful in miniaturizing the weapon for possible use on the warhead of a missile.

In response, Panetta said the U.S. would “increase our missile defenses to deal with the threat” and coordinate more closely with the South Koreans and the Japanese on joint defense.

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.
  • LtKitty

    Well, the crap the DPRK leadership spews about America has always been highly provocative. MacArthur was right, we should have pushed these tyrants back into China and then some.

    Also, I’m glad to see our allies getting more support for defense against these lunatics. Missile defense is an excellent counter to states with (perhaps soon to be) a few nuclear weapons. The success rate of MD was 80%? Definitely worth it in this case, even if China moans about it.

    Speaking of the Chinese, I wonder what their response will be. They don’t seem too thrilled about this either, so it could be interesting!

    • SFC-C+11

      I agree with you ltKitty – MacArthur was right, and I too am wondering what the Chinese will say about it.

    • Godzilla

      Had MacArthur had his way it would have likely ended up into a nuclear WW III.

      Joe-1 was tested sucessfully in 1949. The Soviets also had the Tu-4 (B-29 clone). So the USSR also had nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them before the beggining of the the Korean war.

      In 1952 the Tu-95 Bear and Tu-16 Badger prototypes flew for the first time. This was only two years after the war started. The Tu-95 had enough range to hit the CONUS by flying directly from the Soviet Union.

      I have little doubts that if McArthur entered into the Chinese border the USSR would have entered the war openly instead of only providing limited support. Vladivostok is too close for comfort. NK also bordered the USSR.

      • Musson

        Kind of like if Stalin had sent troops into Mexico?

    • blight_

      What more did you want? We pushed up to the Yalu, got hit by the PVA, fell all the way back to Seoul before pushing up to where the DMZ is today.

      The United States was anxious to avoid sinking too much into a war in “sideshow” Korea when we all knew that Western Europe was the Soviet prize…ironic how we went straight into Vietnam right after that.

    • whatever

      LtKitty,

      Was President Truman wrong when he relieved MacArthur of duties in Korea?

      Was MacArthur right in his “war calculations” in pushing toward the Yalu Rivier, dragging China into the war, losing tens of thousands of American soldiers to the vastly under-armed People’s Volunteers Army, and staging the largest retreat in US history?

      Was MacArthur wrong in his post-war advice to US military leadership not to engage China in a land war in Asia ever again?

    • Ken

      You acted like MacArthur didnt try. He went closed enough to the Yalu River, Soviet Union didnt even need to do anything. Chinese barefoot troops alone pushed him back. COCKY is what killed MacArthur. If he would of just acted cautiously, and stopped a little bit farther away from the Yalu River, China wouldnt have reason to say crap, while that leave little to no real land left for the North Korean. Leave it the way it was and NK is done deal after a while. Meaning instead of going all the way to the Yalu River, stop 100 – 200 miles away from it, South Korea would still be controlling 90% of all of Korea, rather than 50% today.

  • TonyC

    South Korea will now have to consider a preemptive strike. They are still at war and never signed a peace treaty. North Korea having a miniaturized nuclear warhead is a grave concern to South Korea. President Bush Sr was premature to remove the US nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. I only hope the US Navy has funds to keep at least one boomer close to the action? Sequestration is on all the minds of potential adversaries.

    • Godzilla

      Given the nature of modern nuclear weapons having them in South Korea or Japan makes little difference. It is only a couple of seconds more time to impact the target.

      The South Koreans could fight North Korea and win with conventional forces. The only questions are how would be Chinese react on such an event and are the South Koreans ready to accept the civilian losses that would likely ensue or not.

      There is still a possibility the NK regime will collapse by itself. Leadership transitions are seldom smooth. The new leader seems to be busy purging the military at the moment.

    • Iknowit

      South Korea is scared of north Korea and would unify eith them before fighting them.

      • Juuso

        That is probably the reason why US still has 30.000 soldiers stationed there.

      • blight_

        Why pay in blood when you can win without firing a shot? The DPRK knows it can’t win without paying in blood, and if Kim runs and the power structure collapses, odds are the place will go factional and require intervention, either from the PLA or the ROKA. Chances are, the PLA would get to the DMZ before the ROKA could push north.

        The PRC could “win” public relations simply by dismantling most of its side of the DMZ, opening the border for business, staging tons of family reunions, bringing food in and turning north korea into an heavy industrial EEZ. North Korea is rich in mineral resources, which any good industrial machine needs.

  • superraptor

    The US is becoming unreliable as far as protecting its alleis is concerned. We should allow Japan, SK and Germany to build its own nuclear deterrence which would allow the US to reduce its military budget. Japan and Germany would have nuclear missile subs up and running in no time.

    • SJE

      Yes, because South Korea, West Germany, and Japan are currently under the yoke of Communism….oh, wait…..

      • blight_

        There’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq for the lose column.

        There’s Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan for the win column. India is a draw, but better a draw than aligned against.

    • BishopOne

      You do know that the reason US is offering to protect its allies aganist nuclear threats is so they don’t have to build their own, thus creating more nuclear strike capable contries that would add to the uneeded number of countries that have them or trying to get them.

      Also I personally see your idea having the exact opposite effect.

      Let’s say we were like ok, “we’re no longer going to provide protection.” Build your own nuclear missiles. Ok done, Now we have a (Random #) of countires that become nuclear capable. What happens next? Other countries will respone with their own nuclear deterrence, and so and so.

      Less nukes, less we have to worry.

      A world full of nuclear capable countires is the exact opposite of what we need.

    • gaylord_gaylordson

      Not even close. The opposite is true.

      In the Pacific, the US has tightened relations and reaffirmed its commitments again and again.

  • Musson

    Were the NORKs testing designs for Iran?

  • Benjamin

    How can they tell the difference between a uranium and plutonium bomb?

    I think the S.Korean’s have it right in enhancing the number and quality of missiles they have aimed at the North. Having these missiles will be able to limit the ability of NK to use WMD’s effectively.

  • frank

    So the US will again give North Korea free oil and food and beg for them to stop testing just like Clinton did for all those years.

  • SJE

    The solution to NK lies through China. The problem is that the Chinese have conflicting views on their client, just like the Pakistanis and the Taliban.

  • Lance

    Nothing we can do what more sanctions no food the NK people are now eating each other how starved they are. China provides military aid despite the UN. Say its bad yes. But unless you want to start Korea 2.0 with millions killed nothing you can really do.

  • george

    Let’s hope the next Sec Def doesn’t go home to visit his wifey every weekend on the taxpayer dollar like Panetta did.

    • whatever

      Would you rather see the next Sec Def go home to visit his wifey every weekday (Mon through Fri, on the taxpayer dollar) instead?

  • obewankinoo

    why does it have to be small enough to be placed on the warhead of a missile – put it in a freighter and just ship it to the port…they’d be more of a threat if they could think outside the box…

  • LCON
  • LCON
  • Rob

    Our government is ignoring the statement North Korea made long ago.

    All of the US led UN sanctions are hurting their country and for so long now that they consider it just a long prolonged form of war.

    When North korea is capable of hitting us with a nuke they will do so even at the risk of their entire obliteration.

    All it takes is to drop sanctions and let it be known we have never wanted to invade or take over their country. Peace and trying to improve the global economy does not work if the major countries are building an arsenal.

    Sanctions can be reactivated if their hostilities do not stop.

    Otherwise, we will just push them to try to give nukes to terrorists. That is if it’s not already too late for that.

    I hate dictator regimes but we had our chance to sort it back in 1953 but China stepped in.

    There is a chance they are just all barking dogs and there never will anything to worry about except that they accidently test too big of a bomb and wipe themselves out.

  • Rob

    If someone has the money, please send a cheap video player to North Korea’s leader, with a video of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Followed by a few of our best tests and Modern warfare videos from the history channel.

  • fillmorecoffins

    Any war between North/South Korea will result in the destruction of Seoul. That has been the gun to the head that has prevented any action on the west’s part. Add nuclear weapons gained by the north and that’s nightmarish for a future war. Land war on China’s turf is not even thinkable. By the way, this site comes out with articles at a government’s pace.

  • Justin

    I am not spending tax money on new nukes!

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